Jacopo Sansovino, Saint James the Greater
- Jacopo Sansovino (Jacopo Tatti)
- 01 Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
- Specific location
- Interior, central nave, fourth bay, left pillar, aedicule
- White marble
The apostle is depicted as a man in his thirties, with trim beard and long hair, dressed in a tunic and wearing sandals, his weight planted on his left leg as he rests a large book on the left leg, swung forward. With his right hand, he grasps the head of his pilgrim's staff. His head turns to the right, with a mild and confident gaze.
The statue is part of a series depicting the Apostles, begun for the Florentine cathedral in the 16th century but never completed. The first was Saint Matthew, by Michelangelo, left unfinished and now in the Galleria dell'Accademia. Others were by Baccio Bandinelli, Andrea Ferrucci, Benedetto da Rovezzano, Giovanni Bandini and Vincenzo de' Rossi. The niches that welcome them, designed by Ammannati, were installed in 1573.
The cycle was part of the cathedral renovations promoted in the 1500s, first by the republican government and then by the grand duke. The series of apostles represents the conception of the Apostolic Church, meaning founded on Christ's mandate to his disciples (Matthew 28, 16-20). The integration of their figures within the church structures, its pillars and walls, alludes to the Church as a spiritual building, with the Holy Apostles as its first members and "living stones" (First Letter of St. Peter, 4-5).
From the Gospels we learn that James was a brother to the Apostle John, and that it was King Herod Agrippa I who ordered his death. According to the Golden Legend, the other disciples then took his remains to Spain. There, on his tomb, the famous sanctuary of Santiago would rise, since the Middle Ages a pilgrim destination: this is why the emblem of James the Elder is the pilgrim’s staff. The book he holds is the Gospel, which includes the Letter of James.